Monday, 21 January 2013

A Very Unusual Pursuit: City of Orphans

A Very Unusual Pursuit: City of Orphans by Catherine Jinks (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-74331-306-0
Reviewed by Ann Harth ( )

Birdie is ten. She lives in London in the 1870s at a time when Bogles – child-eating monsters – are scattered throughout the city. They reside in wells, chimneys, sewers and any place that welcomes the dark and dastardly.

Alfred Bunce is a well-known bogler. He’s paid to hunt and kill bogles. Bunce has the magical sword and vast experience in his trade but he can’t do it alone. Without Birdie, his success would evaporate like the bogels he kills.

In exchange for lodging and food, Birdie works as an apprentice for Mr Bunce. Her job is to be the bogle bait. Standing with her back to the yawning darkness in places where children have disappeared, Birdie sings in her clear, sweet voice. She stands in a ring of salt crystals and watches the black opening through a mirror. The singing draws the bogles near but Birdie knows exactly when to leap from harm. At the same instant, Mr Bunce thrusts his sword through the bogle and the monster dissolves.

Birdie feels fulfilled in her work, thanking her good fortune every day that she has not yet landed in the workhouse. There, children are beaten and starved and made to work all hours of the day and night.

When Miss Eames, a real lady, enters the scene, she’s horrified by Birdie’s plight, and tries to find alternative methods for luring bogles from hiding. Birdie is furious. This meddling will only make her lose her job. If that happens, she’ll be tossed into the workhouse forever.

Creating a shaky alliance, Mr Bunce, Birdie and Miss Eames work together to uncover the mystery behind the disappearance of some of the missing children, a crime masterminded by someone even more evil than bogles.

In the first book of this series readers, 10 and older, will follow Birdie, Mr Bunce and Miss Eames through the perilous streets of 19th century London, begging for more when they turn the final page. A Very Unusual Pursuit: City of Orphans will have its audience riveted as they race through this fast-paced adventure.

I recommend this book for lovers of intrigue and adventure. The characters are strong and believable and the setting gives the reader a strong impression of the time and place in which the story is set.

Award-winning Catherine Jinks has written over 30 books for all ages. She was born in Brisbane but grew up in Papua New Guinea. She attended high school and university in Sydney and now resides with her husband and daughter in Leura NSW. Catherine Jinks has been writing since she was eight years old. Fingers crossed that she continues for a long, long time. For more information about Catherine Jinks, please visit

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